California’s illegal immigrants are getting ready to earn legal driver’s licenses. Last week Governor Gerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 60 which makes it legal for undocumented immigrants to drive to work and school. California is the tenth state to allow immigrants to apply for driving licenses. It joins other States that have also approved the measure in the last year.
Riding a wave of enthusiasm from community leaders, insurance companies and undocumented workers, Governor Brown spoke enthusiastically about the implication of the law, “When a million people without their documents drive legally and with respect in the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice. No longer are undocumented people in the shadows.”
Fiona Brook, an immigration attorney in Sherman Oaks, California, spoke out today saying, “Undocumented people are going to drive and that is a reality. It is a much better idea and a much safer situation to have drivers pass their test and obtain licenses legally. AB60 is a positive step in this direction. California was one of many states that allowed DACA recipients to apply for their driver’s licenses but there are limitations as to who could qualify.”
Until 1993 it was possible to qualify for a driver’s license, with or without legal status but this option was taken away and undocumented workers have been struggling for a voice ever since. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law this bill last week and with it has given millions of immigrants a date when they will have the right to drive in California, providing they can pass the necessary written and road test.
The new California Drivers Licenses will have a marking on the front and back to indicate that the driver lacks legal immigration status but law enforcement will be prohibited from using this identification to penalize drivers. The new licenses will not be considered valid federal identification nor will they provide any other state benefits. Regardless, they will make it safe to drive without the threat of being pulled over and arrested, or having one’s car impounded for being undocumented. The only concern is that licenses will not be available until January 1st 2015.
Governor Brown has been determined to change the immigration landscape. On signing the Bill he said, “Hopefully, it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.” Brown was joined at the Bill signing ceremony by local law enforcement officers, local lawmakers, community leaders and immigrant rights advocates. “This Bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” he said.
Governor Assemblyman, Luis Alejo worked in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session to revive the bill and get it signed. He wanted to honor the belief by many that by providing driving licenses to undocumented immigrants, California could “open a legal umbrella for everyone on the road to prevent situations in which immigrants face arrest, heavy fines and car impoundment when they are pulled over. Just know this bill is going to have a positive impact on the lives of over two million immigrants in the state of California,” Alejo said from the California Assembly.
The 55-19 vote was passed October 4th and a crowd of undocumented workers took time from work to cheer. Gerry Brown’s policies would make Franklin D Roosevelt pleased. After all, it was Roosevelt who said, “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
By Vicky Judah